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Qualex still seen as best bet for homeless center

Manteca is continuing its effort to find a way to reduce homeless issues while meeting legal constraints imposed by the courts.

On a 3-1 vote with Dave Breitenbucher dissenting and Debby Moorhead absent, the City Council Tuesday directed staff to continue working toward securing the former site of a Kodak film processing center in the Manteca Industrial Park for use of a homeless navigation center.

Such a concept is a resource center that provides services in one locale designed to help the homeless get off the street and being able to support themselves.  In order to enforce laws aimed at stopping illegal encampments, the courts require that cities have available beds to direct the homeless to use. If they opt not to take advantage of shelter beds, the courts have indicated cities can enforce anti-camping laws.

The navigation center is seen as a way to accomplish both goals of reducing the homeless population and being able to enforce quality of life laws.

The council has made getting a navigation center in place at 555 Industrial Park Drive as one of the city’s top priorities.

Breitenbucher, while making it clear he wants to come up with a workable homeless solution, doubled downed on his previous objections to the city spending $1.2 million to possibly purchase the Qualex site and then having to gut or tear down the building and start anew spending even more money.

At one point Mayor Ben Cantu told Breitenbucher that the city has to do something as the homeless problem wasn’t going to resolve itself on its own. That prompted Breitenbucher to respond by saying he was against the city addressing the issue but believed the city is taking a more expensive and complex route to accomplish its goals. Breitenbucher called the Qualex site a “money pit.”

He noted the council passed on a smaller and what he thought would have been a more effective and less costly location at a building that had been available on Bessemer Drive that is also within the Manteca Industrial Park. The site was one that Inner City Action believed would be effective.

Breitenbucher said Cantu had dismissed the option saying it wouldn’t work as a navigation center.

“The mayor has never run a navigation center or a homeless shelter,” Breitenbucher said.

Cantu pointed out Inner City Action has also said the Qualex building would work as a homeless center

The mayor was also frustrated that the current timeline doesn’t have a navigation center up and running until December 2021.

Councilman Gary Singh noted extensive vetting including input from neighbors of other possible sites for a navigation center keeps bringing the city back to the Qualex site.

Much of that has to do with the location not just in terms of proximity to where homeless illegally camp but also because it was the spot that garnered the least objections from residents and neighbors.  

The council Tuesday authorized spending $62,720 to hire De Novo Planning to inspect the building’s electrical and mechanical systems and assess the structural integrity while researching state regulations regarding structures used as homeless navigation centers. The firm will develop concept plans and provide the city with estimates regarding retrofitting and rehabilitating the existing 57,329-square-foot building versus demolishing it and starting from scratch with permanent or portable structures

In August the San Joaquin County Oversight Board put in place in 2010 when the state dissolved redevelopment agencies to divert funds back to Sacramento during the Great Recession to oversee the disposal of RDA property, will decide whether to allow Manteca to buy Qualex for the appraised price of $1,125,000.

The city has been told it can get help planning for the development of programs and services for people experiencing homelessness by making a request to the California Department of Housing and Community Development. The agency’s staff would be deployed to provide more than 13,000 hours of technical assistance at no cost to the city.

At the same time such help is requested municipal staff would start more intense data collection on Manteca homeless and step up outreach to community based organizations and other government agencies that could assist with the development and implementation for services for a homeless navigation center.

If all goes well construction design would take place from November 2020 to February 2021 with the project going to bid in March or April of 2021.

Construction would take place from May to October of 2021 at the same time requests for proposals for a homeless navigation center operator would be circulated.

The goal is to have the center up and running by December 2021.

Meanwhile the city is working on getting an interim solution in place.

It involves operating a warming/cooling center to provide a clean and safe area for the homeless while helping them develop a pathway toward permanent housing, income, healthcare and stability.

A request for proposals is now circulating with Aug. 7 as a deadline. It would allow the phasing in of services as well as allows religious services as long as there is a separate and equal space available for those that do not want to take part in services.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email